Kolodii or Masliana – What Is It and How Do People Celebrate It in Ukraine

Kolodii or Masliana

You have probably heard about the Masliana holiday, which people celebrate at the end of winter or the beginning of spring in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus. On this day, folks usually gather together in the town square, eat many pancakes, drink (usually alcohol) and play different games such as climbing a greasy pole, fistfights, and burning a vast straw doll (called chuchelo). But what is the background of this holiday, and how did Ukrainians celebrate it then? Let’s find out in today’s post.

What is this holiday about?

The archaic holiday of the beginning of spring is known to almost all Europeans, although under different names. The Christian Orthodox Church timed it to the last week before the Great Fast. That is why the holiday does not have a clearly defined date in the calendar but depends on Easter. It usually occurs in late February –  early March.

Its celebration consists of loud festivals – carnivals (the most famous is the Venice Carnival with characteristic masks and luxurious costumes). The very word “carnival” comes from the Latin “carnem vale” – meat farewell. The Czechs call this holiday Masopust, the Slovaks – Fashiang, the Poles –Zapusty, the Russians –Maslenitsa. There are similar holidays in France (Mardi Gras) and in Britain (“Fat Tuesday”). In Ukraine, the week of celebration had different names: The Women’s Week, The Cheese Week, Masnytsia, Masliana, Syropust. However, the most popular name of the holiday was Kolodii.

Kolodii (Колодій) comes from the word “колода”, which means a log. This week married women came to single boys’ houses and tied a little log to their hands or legs as a joking “punishment” for not coming into marriage till the day (before the Fast). To take off those logs, men needed to pay a ransom such as horilka or money. Similar traditions existed in Slovenia, Croatia, Belarus but not in Russia. The main dish for that holiday in Ukraine was varenyky (dumplings), in Russia – pancakes.

Because of ages under Russian rule, nowadays Ukrainians celebrate Kolodii or Masliana the same as Russians do: cooking pancakes, wearing costumes, singing, dancing, and playing competitive games. So in every Ukrainian city and village, you will see a big celebration at the beginning of March (this year in some places it is cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions).

Do you have any similar festivals in your country? Tell us about it in the comments.

  1. luifa.luifa March 12, 2021

    Very interesting post! I would love to see in person that celebration some day!

    • Inna March 15, 2021

      Luis, check out my Instagram stories from this marvelous holiday!

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